That’s not a good idea.

A friend was surprised and pleased by her two-and-a-half year old grandson’s way of handling no-saying.  I’ll call him Ben.  This Grandma sees the young fellow every four months or so and marvels at his changes between their visits.  Here’s what happened.

Ben was deeply involved in playing when his mother told him they’d be leaving soon to meet his other Grandma.

Ben’s response?  “No, no, no.  Not good idea,” he said waving his forefinger in a “better to stop and consider” way while scrunching his face and shaking his head side to side.  “Play, play, play.”

Mom squatted to his level, asked him to look at her, which he did, and said evenly, “We need to meet Grandma so we can go with her to buy a birthday present for Grandpa.  You can play more as soon we get home.”

Ben thought for a moment and up went his wagging forefinger again.  “That good idea,” said a smiling Ben.  A few minutes later, he left his playing behind and let his mother help get his jacket on.

This story struck me as a winning way to handle opposition during the time when children are beginning to resist having someone else doing their thinking for them.  As they should.

Mom signaled an upcoming transition.  She calmly met Ben’s first resistance with an explanation of what was going to happen and why they needed to leave.  She respected Ben’s desire to play and listened to what he had to say.  Because of their history, Ben knew that Mom would make the final decision, even if he didn’t think leaving his play was a good idea.

The best part is that Ben is learning the rudiments of what it takes to make decisions:

Knowing and expressing what he wants/needs, and

Evaluating and choosing, so long as he is given information

to consider. and

Thinking about how things might work out for him.

Ben also uses his technique to assess what other kids are doing.  The family was at a playground when Ben saw several kids pushing, yelling and hitting in a dispute over a soccer ball.  Ben’s comment?  He said to his parents in a sad tone, “That is not a good idea,” using, of course, the requisite head and finger moves.

It doesn’t take much imagination to know where this most effective strategy came from.  There’s a lot of deep learning embedded in it.  This Mom and Dad have apparently learned the great importance of stopping to consider how a choice does, or will, work out before engaging in it.

I’m sure there are those times when Ben’s mom or dad need to scoop him up because they’re not leaving him alone.  Even then, Ben has a choice.  “Would you like to go to the car under my power or under yours?”  Not a moment’s anger for the parents.  Just a calm and certain sense that they are the one in the room with the authority Ben can trust, even when he doesn’t like it.

Connie Dawson

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